About DURP

Careers in Planning

The planning profession is concerned with analysis of the forces that influence the growth and development of cities, regions, and rural areas, with the formulation of plans and policies to meet the needs—physical, social, and economic--of an increasingly urbanized society, and with the implementation of those plans and policies toward the end of ensuring a livable, humane and equitable built environment. Planning is an essential function at all levels of government—local, state, regional, and national—but is carried out as well by virtually all organizations and institutions. Demand for well-trained professional planners is strong in both the public and private sectors.

Guides and Market Demand for Planners

  • What is Planning, a web page provided by the American Planning Association, provides an overview of the planning profession.

  • Choosing a Career in Urban & Regional Planning is a guide produced by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP), a consortium of university based programs offering degrees and credentials in urban and regional planning.

  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (USBLS) monitors employment prospects for the occupation of urban and regional planners. USBLS forecasts robust growth in demand for planners between 2006 and 2016; the urban and regional planning occupation is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations.

  • Payscale.com estimates the median pay for planners at $68,800 for the U.S. Median pay by metropolitan area: New York City ($70,900), Los Angeles ($80,000), Chicago ($60,800), San Francisco ($94,200), Atlanta ($71,900), Seattle ($85,000), Miami ($79,800).

  • In December 2007, U.S. News and World Report rated Urban Planner as one of 31 careers with the brightest future in the U.S.

  • E - The Environmental Magazine lists planning as a "great green job opportunity," with growing demand from local governments for professionals skilled in wetlands restoration, stormwater management, transportation and urban design.

Historically, a majority of the graduates of planning schools have pursued careers in public planning agencies (city, metropolitan area, county, state, or regional); in private consulting firms; or in university-based teaching and research positions. In addition, planners frequently find employment in a wide range of organizations including, for example, housing agencies; community and neighborhood development corporations; health, employment, education, and criminal justice planning agencies; economic development agencies and organizations; international development and technical assistance programs; federal agencies; foundations; and private development firms and consultancies.

As a profession, planning is both an art and a science. It demands technical proficiency and an ability to envision alternative physical and social environments. Effective planners are also able to communicate ideas, work with diverse constitiuencies, and negotiate outcomes in highly politically-charged contexts. Planners usually begin their careers as specialists in particular sub-fields (e.g., land use planning, environmental planning, housing, community development, economic development, etc.), but as their careers advance they must be able to act as generalists, drawing on and influencing the work of engineers, architects, landscape architects, developers, policy analysts, and other planners to shape the form and functioning of cities and regions. Planning is an excellent career choice for those who seek to exercise leadership that yields tangible results for communities and the environment. Study in planning is also excellent preparation for students wishing to pursue careers in law, public administration, policy or other related fields, or who wish to go on to graduate study in the social sciences.